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Wesfarmers Human Rights And Modern Slavery Statement

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Question:

Discuss about the Wesfarmers Human Rights and Modern Slavery Statement.
 
 

Answer:

Introduction:

Wesfarmers Limited is amongst the topmost revenue generating multinational company in the nation. It is an Australian conglomerate and has the global headquarter located at Perth in Western Australia and the address of the same is 40 The Esplanade Perth, Western Australia (Wesfarmers, 2017a). Due to its operations being spread in different businesses, it falls in the industry of conglomerate and is a multi-industry company. Wesfarmers key operations are in the aspects of fertilizers, coal mining, chemicals, retail and industry and safety products (AMP Capital, 2015). And the major interests lie in Australia and NZ, along with UK, Bangladesh and Ireland (ASX, 2016)

In 2000 companies, the company has been at the first position. Through supermarkets and its grocery stores, the majority of the company’s income is generated. The company generated $66,216,000,000 as revenues for the year of 2016. The company has a diversified portfolio and it operates in areas like hardware and department stores. The post of CEO of the company has been known as MD in the company, and is held by Richard Goyder. The Chairman of the company has been known as Non-Executive Chairman in the company, and is held by Michael Chaney (IBIS, 2016).

Wesfarmers had been declared as the biggest company with regards to the revenue of the company for the previous year. The company left its competitors far behind by attaining AU$65.98 billion as revenues. The Annual Report for the previous year shows that 220,000 people had been the employees of the company, due to which it is a largest private sector employer of the nation. The company also has considerable number of employees, which is over 3,300, and this is due to its present position (Wesfarmers, 2016a).

In 1914, it was initially founded as being a cooperative and was responsible for making available the merchandise, as well as, the services to the Western Australian farmers. The first time when the company was listed over the ASX was in 1984. Since then, the company has been growing manifolds on yearly basis (Wesfarmers, 2017b).

Even within its retail division, the company enjoys different operations, for instance, the supermarkets, the convenience stores, and office and hardware supplies. The brands of Wesfarmers Limited include Coles, which operates as a retailer of the groceries and a number of other household consumables; Kmart- retailer of general merchandise and apparel, along with handling of the automotive services department; Target- retailer for general merchandise, home wares and apparel; Home Improvement- run through Bunnings brand and has a chain of 357 trading locations in NZ and Australia; and lastly, Officeworks, which operates across the nation as a retail office supplies stores (IBIS, 2016).

 

Regulatory Framework

The regulatory framework which is applicable on any company in Australia includes the Acts, the Regulations, the Codes and the various other legislative mechanisms, which govern the entities having its operations in the nation. The following part covers a detail on some of the legislations which are applicable on the company.

As the products are offered by the company to its consumers, the act which regulates the consumer behavior in Australia, i.e., the Competition and Consumer Act, 2002, which is an act of the Commonwealth, is applicable over the company. Certain changes were announced in 2016 by the Federal Government. As per these changes, when a business would have a major power over the act, due to which it can act in a way which can be stated as being competitive, and which also helps in attaining the benefits for the consumers, it would be unlawful when the same results in the competition being reduced due to the superior competitors making an exit from the market. This would result in the discouragement in the competition, which would increase the uncertainty for Wesfarmers. Not only is the business community against this proposal, even Wesfarmers has conveyed its disappointment to the Government. The reason for this is that the chances of litigations being raised against the company would be raised due to these changes in the provision of the act (Wesfarmers, 2016a).

One of the retail businesses of Wesfarmers, i.e., Coles had been leading the command for development, as well as, implementation of the Food and Grocery Code of Conduct with the Australian Food and Grocery Council. Upon its ratification by the Parliament, Coles signed the same. This code is regulated by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission under the Competition and Consumer Act 2001. Wesfarmers, in its Annual Report 2016, has acknowledged that the increasing number of regulations in the nation was resulting in an unnecessary delay in the investments, which renders the operations of the company, as less effective. The activities of the company are subjected to a number of environmental regulations across the nation, in addition to the other nations in which the company operates (Wesfarmers, 2016a).

Being registered as a company, Wesfarmers is also required to adhere to the Corporations Act, 2001 (Cth) and has to appoint its directors and other officers as per the criteria laid down in it, carry out the meetings, and make the disclosures as per this act. The example of one of such disclosure relates to the general standard of independence of the auditor through the Corporations Act 2001. Another example of the same is the disclosure as per section 237 of this act, pertaining to the proceedings brought on behalf of the company. The securities trading policy of Wesfarmers replicates the restrictions in the matter of the key management personnel of the company, where closely related parties are undertaken. A number of provisions pertaining to the remuneration of key personnel are also governed through the provisions of this act. The compliance with section 300A was also done as per this act. And also, the substantial shareholding for the purposes of Part 6C.1 of the Corporations Act 2001 was also made by Wesfarmers (Wesfarmers, 2016a).

The Income Tax Assessment Act 1997 is also applicable on the company, which requires the company to comply with the requirements set out in this act’s Division 83A for the Australian resident employees. The Wesfarmers Employee Share Acquisition Plan of the company qualified as a non-discriminatory share scheme for the employee as per the Division 83A. The company also has to adhere to different Accounting Standards, one of which is AASB 101 Presentation of Financial Statement (Wesfarmers, 2016a).

 

Treaties, Conventions or Agreements

The previous segment covered the regulatory framework which is applicable on Wesfarmers, as a result of its operations in Australia. This necessitates a discussion over the various international treaties, covenants and agreements, which are applicable on Wesfarmers, to be discussed, which apply on the company owing to its global presence.

In order to take a step towards the initiatives relating to sustainable future, Wesfarmers complies with the GRI Guidelines, which stands for the Global Reporting Initiative Guidelines. For the year of 2015, Wesfarmers has followed a number of GRI G4 Guidelines in different categories of economic, environmental and social, and under these headings, on the basis of different aspects. For instance, under the environmental category, in the energy aspect, Wesfarmers adhered to the G4-DMA and G4-EN5 and for emissions aspect, the G4-DMA, G4-EN15, G4-EN16, and G4-EN17were adhered to (Wesfarmers, 2015).

The company is committed towards reducing the greenhouse gas emissions, for which, the company monitors and manages its own emissions in an active manner and makes attempts towards reducing the same. The company also understands the specific risks which are formed due to the changes in the climate for the business of the company and also attempts to reduce such risks. The company, for 2016, reduced its greenhouse emissions by more than 2% in comparison to 2015, and since 2012, the company has decreased the same by more than 30% (Wesfarmers, 2016a). The raison d'être behind for working towards reduction in the greenhouse gas emissions is due to the international treaties like the UNCCC, i.e., United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol.

The international convention of UNFCCC was initiated in 1992, which works in the direction of stabilizing the emissions from the greenhouse gases, in order to decrease the degraded impact which they leave on the climate. UNFCCC helps in specifying the limits for the greenhouse gases, in place of specifying an international treaty (Harrison, 2013). Another similar treaty, which was formed in 1997, is the Kyoto Protocol. This is also focused upon reducing the greenhouse gas emissions. The raison d'être behind this is due to global warming which is aptly present, and which results from the emission of carbon dioxide which has been formed due to the actions undertaken by man (Körber, Schwirzenbeck and Barth, 2008). The Kyoto Protocol implements the objectives of UNFCCC. Hence, both of these treaties work towards fighting global warming by reducing the concentration of the greenhouse gasses present in the atmosphere, by taking it to such a level through with the dangerous anthropogenic interferences with the climate system can be prevented (Massai, 2011).

 


The Paris Agreement is one of the agreements within the UNFCCC, which deals with the mitigation and adaption for the greenhouse gases, along with the finance which starts in the year of 2020. Its language was negotiated amongst the representatives of 195 nations, which took place on December 12th 2015, at the 21st Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC, and was held in Paris (Blau, 2017). The Paris Agreement is aimed at enhancement of the UNFCCC’s implementation by holding the increase in the global average temperature which is less than 2?°C and also makes efforts towards limiting the increase to 1.5°C and both these limits are over the pre-industrial levels (Bates, 2015).

Recognizing that the climate change is due to human actions, and acknowledging that Wesfarmers and the nation of Australia have a huge rule in mitigation of the climate change, Wesfarmers takes various initiatives towards safeguarding the climate. Wesfarmers works towards this, for limiting the global warming to the levels of 1.5°C – 2°C higher than the pre-industrial levels. Wesfarmers believes in working together with the industry and the government for achieving these desired outcomes. For the decarbonisation to take place in an efficient manner, the long term policy needs to have a certainty. Hence, the company has pledged to continue on improving the greenhouse gas efficiency in all of its operations, which would not only reduce the business risks and costs for the company, but would also contribute towards the mitigation of the climate change (Wesfarmers, 2017c).

Wesfarmers also undertook steps to encourage the government to apply for the ERF, i.e., the Emissions Reduction Fund, so that the energy efficiency could be implemented across the retail business of Wesfarmers. Wesfarmers’ business takes the LED lights into use when the company’s new stores are being developed. The company also makes the retrofitting of more than two million new and highly efficient light fittings in the stores which are already present in the nation and the same is also being done for the distribution centers of the company, within a period of seven years. By undertaking these initiatives, Wesfarmers would successfully avoid the addition values for fifteen thousand tones of CO2e every year, i.e., carbon dioxide equivalent annually (Wesfarmers, 2016b).

 


As has been highlighted earlier, Target is one of businesses of the nation. For the year of 2016, Target took a comprehensive due diligence program for making certain that the importation of the regulated timbre products was not done from the illegally logged sources. This was due to the Federal Government of Australia’s initiative with regards to adherence to the Illegal Logging Act 2012 of the Europe, along with its regulations (Wesfarmers, 2016c).

The human element plays a huge role in the Wesfarmers as a conglomerate. And so, a number of international treaties and covenants in this regard, have to be followed by the company. The company has also drawn a statement as per the Modern Slavery Act 2015’s Section 54, Part 6, which is an act of the United Kingdom (Wesfarmers, 2016d).

 

References

AMP Capital. (2015) AMP Capital Sustainable Share Fund. [Online] AMP Capital. Available from: https://www.ampcapital.com.au/AMPCapitalAU/media/contents/Documents/Sustainable%20Share%20Fund/1503-ssf-stock-holdings.pdf?ext=.pdf [Accessed on: 21/04/17]

ASX. (2016) Wesfarmers. [Online] ASX. Available from: https://www.asx.com.au/asxpdf/20160921/pdf/43bbqf00p6wwcy.pdf [Accessed on: 21/04/17]

Bates, A.K. (2015) The Paris Agreement: The Best Chance We Have to Save the One Planet We've Got. San Bernardino, CA: BOOK Publishing Company.

Blau, J. (2017) The Paris Agreement: Climate Change, Solidarity, and Human Rights. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Harrison, J. (2013) The European Union and South Korea: The Legal Framework for Strengthening Trade, Economic and Political Relations. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

IBIS. (2016) Wesfarmers Limited - Premium Company Report Australia. [Online] IBIS. Available from: https://www.ibisworld.com.au/australian-company-research-reports/retail-trade/wesfarmers-limited-company.html [Accessed on: 21/04/17]

Körber, ‎C., Schwirzenbeck, M. and Barth, ‎K. (2008) The Kyoto Protocol. Norderstedt: GRIN Verlag.

Massai, L. (2011) The Kyoto Protocol in the EU: European Community and Member States under International and European Law. Prato, Italy: Springer Science & Business Media.

Wesfarmers. (2015) GRI G4 Content Index. [Online] Wesfarmers. Available from: https://www.sustainability.wesfarmers.com.au/our-data/gri-g4-content-index/ [Accessed on: 21/04/17]

Wesfarmers. (2016a) 2016 Annual Report. [Online] Wesfarmers. Available from: https://www.wesfarmers.com.au/docs/default-source/reports/2016-annual-report.pdf?sfvrsn=4 [Accessed on: 21/04/17]

Wesfarmers. (2016b) Stakeholder engagement. [Online] Wesfarmers. Available from: https://sustainability.wesfarmers.com.au/our-approach/stakeholder-engagement/ [Accessed on: 21/04/17]

Wesfarmers. (2016c) 2016 Sustainability Report. [Online] Wesfarmers. Available from: https://sustainability.wesfarmers.com.au/media/1835/edited-extract-of-wesfarmers-2016-sustainability-report.pdf [Accessed on: 21/04/17]

Wesfarmers. (2016d) Wesfarmers human rights and modern slavery statement. [Online] Wesfarmers. Available from: https://sustainability.wesfarmers.com.au/our-data/wesfarmers-human-rights-and-modern-slavery-statement/ [Accessed on: 21/04/17]

Wesfarmers. (2017a) A New Head Office – Wesfarmers House. [Online] Wesfarmers. Available from: https://www.wesfarmers.com.au/who-we-are/our-history/a-new-head-office-wesfarmers-house [Accessed on: 21/04/17]

Wesfarmers. (2017b) Our History. [Online] Wesfarmers. Available from: https://www.wesfarmers.com.au/who-we-are/our-history [Accessed on: 21/04/17]

Wesfarmers. (2017c) Environment. [Online] Wesfarmers. Available from: https://sustainability.wesfarmers.com.au/our-principles/environment/climate-change-resilience/ [Accessed on: 21/04/17]

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